There’s scarcely been a more divisive president, to the country, and to the party which he purports to represent than Donald J. Trump. The man won the Republican primaries with around 40 percent of his own party’s aggregated pre-clinch votes, and lost most caucuses except Nevada, Kentucky and Hawaii. He faced rebellion at his own nominating convention. Most of his own party’s pundits and fellow candidates who conceded believed he would be crushed in November.
The #NeverTrump movement led the charge to keep Trump out of office. This was based on the proposition that Trump was unqualified for the job of POTUS.
President Trump is the same man as candidate Trump. If he was manifestly unqualified for office then, it would follow that he is now. That would mean we have an unqualified man running our country, with which most of the free world (and likely the kleptocratic world of dictators) agrees.
Conservatives, as much as liberals and most Americans, would rather have a qualified person running the government than an unqualified one. And Trump won–though he didn’t win a majority of the popular vote, he did win the race, such as the Constitution provides for winning. He also wasn’t crushed at the polls. Most of the differences people seem to have had about Trump revolved around his policies, with his fitness for office a lesser concern overall.
In other words, most people who voted against Trump, did so because they didn’t like what he would do, not that they thought he was unqualified to do it, although many claimed both. Those who voted for him, either voted for him despite their doubts of his qualifications, or believed he is qualified.
When the results rolled in, most #NeverTrump conservatives admitted we were wrong about Trump’s electability. Therefore, we might have also been wrong about his fitness for office, or at least the importance attached to that issue by Americans.
Very little “new” information is left to be known about President Trump. His tax returns and some leases we won’t see, or discovery on certain lawsuits now settled won’t change anyone’s mind. “New” supposedly-damaging videos (such as the one Shaun King tweeted) contradicting Trump’s claim that he doesn’t know Putin, only serve to reinforce bias against Trump (by the way, it’s not new). Whatever isn’t known about Trump has already been imagined in the worst light by his opponents, and dismissed by his supporters.
As president, Trump hasn’t done a half-bad job being conservative. If any other Republican in the White House did (the positive parts) what he did in one week, we’d all be enjoying champagne and strawberries in the hot tub, toasting success.
Unfortunately, we have to put up with severe intestinal Trumpiness as the price of our success. This means suffering cramps from bouts of protectionism, narcissistic pursuit of large crowds, self-worship, and basking in the delight of putting down opponents for real or imagined slights. The acute irritable bowel symptoms of Trump’s tweets and prevarications may or may not become chronic.
Tevya implored God in “Fiddler on the Roof,” As the Good Book says, “Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed.” In other words, send us the cure. We’ve got the sickness already.
Trump may be the cure, and he may be more of the sickness. But right now, there’s enough cure for conservatives to be hopeful. Bashing Trump over the things we knew he’d do–the tweets and bombast and vanity–is counterproductive. Plus, the liberal press spends an inordinate amount of time doing that already. Our distinctive voice would be lost in the din of their megaphones.
Where conservatives have a chance to be heard is in the places where decision-makers dwell. The Republican retreat in Philadelphia floated some troubling ideas of what should become of Obamacare. We have an opportunity to influence Trump and his administration, along with congressional leadership on the issue. If we fail, then 2018 could be very, very bad for our cause and our party.
This is why we must praise Trump when he does right by conservatives. Trump listens. Where former President Obama (I love writing “former”) was convinced he was right about everything and could not be argued with, Trump can be influenced. As long as he gets credit for what goes right and can blame others for what goes wrong, he is all ears.
My greatest hope for a Trump presidency is that he would grow in office. That the weight of the presidency would birth in him a seed of statesmanship. There are signs this could happen. But if all conservatives do is bash Trump for who the man became over 70 years of his life, that leaves very little room for him to hear calls for positive change.
We know who Trump is. It took him decades to become this way. He will not change overnight into something he isn’t (read: presidential). We owe it to our country to give him a chance to grow, and that means sometimes overlooking things that cause our eyes to roll and our palms to sweat. We won’t give him a hall pass for those things, but the main stream media will ensure the country hears about every single one.
Conservatives have only one path right now, and it goes through Trump. Either we will see some gains going into 2018, or we will suffer what the Democrats saw in 2010. Praising Trump when he does well doesn’t betray our principles. It may be the only way to preserve them.